Review: Sempre by J.M. Darhower

September 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Rating: 5 Stars!

Sempre by J.M. Darhower is, in short, a story that will warm your heart, pulling at strings you never knew existed, excite you till your heart pumps, have you full to bursting, destroy your hopes and make you yearn for more.

You might think I’m exaggerating, but wow is all that comes to mind.

Haven is a lost girl, trying to find her place in a world she can barely comprehend with a past that would disgust and infuriate many. She finds solace in the DeMarco family, learning the ropes of society through Dominic and Carmine and how to walk the fine line of Dr. DeMarco’s anger. She’s special, intelligent and strong – a survivor and she doesn’t even know it.

Carmine, the youngest son of Dr. Vincent DeMarco, is a rebellious teen on the cusp of manhood. With a mouth that infuriates others when it opens, Carmine’s straight-up personality, tenacity and his penchant for violence and rage make him an interesting character – one that balances Haven’s precarious fragile-flower state.

Overall, I thought the book was an amazing read. The story flowed with such grace, third person point-of-views are narrated with finesse and the characters dance around the plot like it were a ballet. Definitely one of the better books I’ve read this year!

Spoilers under the Read More!!

I’ll be honest and say that I know next to nothing about American Mafia, its history and its major players asides from what I’ve seen on popular media. I’ve never seen Scarface or The Godfather, and I’m not entirely sure who the Capote’s are. In saying that, this book led me on a wild journey of education and behind-the-scenes action into what la famiglia can mean.

The first few pages were really interesting. I had no idea who Haven was (I hadn’t even read the blurb), and Darhower wrote the opening scene so convincingly I actually thought Haven was a dog. I laughed at the time, but in hindsight I realize it was very clever of Darhower because that was exactly what Haven was – someone to bark commands to, who never questioned you back and you would expect loyalty from without question.

Carmine irritated me a lot in this book, but his relationship with Haven was beyond beautiful. His tenderness and ‘other’ side really became apparent in her presence, but his acquaintances and former friends never let him forget that he is an asshole. And that’s what I love about Carmine, that he isn’t worried about admitting he is such a dickhead and doesn’t attempt at playing a socialite’s game. The first thing we know about Carmine is he is impulsive, led by his dick, is incredibly promiscuous and doesn’t give much thought to responsibility or his future. What we learn about him from there through some amazing character development is that Carmine is capable of deeply loving another person – and all he needed was for someone to give him a chance to outrun his bloody, guilt-ridden past.

Dr. DeMarco was a very interesting character. Sometimes playing devil’s advocate, sometimes playing God, sometimes being the father Carmine and Dom needed him to be and also being a top dog in the Mafia must be taxing. Not to mention his regular day job as a doctor. Even through Haven’s eyes, I couldn’t bring myself to see Dr. DeMarco as a bad person. Everything he did was his attempt at bettering the lives and futures of his sons, in the memory of his wife and protecting those he loved. I can’t blame someone who has those as their driving force.

Carmine’s Uncle Carrado was such a shady character, but I loved him all the same. Tough, unfeeling and deeply committed to his underworld life, I couldn’t help but feel respect for the laconic man. I thought he was freakin’ cool.

As for the romance? Ugh, couldn’t get enough of it!! The romance was teasingly slow, and Haven and Carmine grew together with it – it was beautiful to read. As innocent as youthful romances usually are, their connection goes beyond the physical: to the sharing of burdens, of guilt and reconciling their pasts to accepting the people they are supposed to be. The scene at Halloween where they shared their first kiss was so sweet! But the aftermath hurt. Really hurt. I know it’s a good book when I’m swayed to and fro by the happenings in a book – it’s rare I get so emotionally involved.

And the plot twist? With Haven’s bloodline and the secret behind Maura’s death? Ugh, I was on edge the entire time, wanting to skim to just find out already!! but not being able to because it was so good.

The ending, particularly when Carmine committed himself to the Mafia, really disappointed me. Like really disappointed me. I had such high hopes! Such dreams of them becoming truly free – that Maura’s death and Haven’s upbringing would have steered them down a different path. Oh the agony Vincent must have experienced when he found out his son went right down the path he’d been working for years to avoid. Ugh.

Still, the way Darhower ended the book left you with accepting ‘second best’. Carmine and Haven’s lives was never really destined for the easy way out, I guess. I just wish they’d been lucky enough.

GREAT book!

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